With warming climate, vineyards are starting to spread in Lithuania. While the farmers can now cultivate more varieties, winemaking is still hampered by restrictive regulation, they say.
Grape-bearing vines are not native to Lithuania – while vineyards in Europe date back 8,000 years, they were not brought here until the eighteenth century, and varieties resilient to cold climate are most widespread.
Andrius Diliautas and his wife Karolina grow over 600 vines in their farm near Švenčionys, south-east from the capital city. Theirs is one of the bigger vineyards in the country, with 200 different varieties of grapes.
“We have 80 kinds of table grapes that grow both outside and in greenhouses,” Diliautas tells LRT TV.
Only a few of the varieties in his vineyard are suitable for winemaking. “Lithuania could do with one or two varieties,” he believes.
As the global warming intensifies, the season for cultivating grapes in Lithuania is also extending. Local farmers are now bringing in more demanding varieties, though many of them still need greenhouses.
“Grapes grown in greenhouses do not have a better taste, but they grow bigger,” Karolina Diliautienė explains. “People like bigger grapes, even though smaller ones sometimes accrue more sugar and aromatic properties.”
Over 200 farmers across Lithuania cultivate vineyards, several dozen are bigger than half a hectare.
Most Lithuanian grape produce ends up inside a juicer. Meanwhile, winemaking is hampered by restrictive regulation.
Steponas Puipa, the president of the Vine Growers Association, says that winemakers are allowed to produce wines with no more than 10 percent alcohol content. “That restricts us a lot.”
The association is now working to have the legislation changed, he adds.
The best region in Lithuania to cultivate vines is the south east due to its light soil. Winemaking could offer opportunities for agricultural businesses in these relatively infertile lands, according to Puipa.